Ashamed to be Australian?

I want to tell you something jolly, but my heart’s not in it.

I’ve been thinking about David Hicks.

Maybe he’s everything the Americans claim… a terrorist, a murderer (he’s not been charged with murder), a former drug addict and car thief. Maybe he’s not. And maybe everything we’ve heard about the appalling conditions (which is a euphemism for torture) he’s being kept under at Guantanamo Bay is untrue.

But I can’t help thinking that’s not the point. You’ll have to excuse me if this is not a popular thing to say in a city that is home to the Australian Defence Force, whose young people are fighting terrorists at this very moment.

But in a way that’s exactly why I am saying it. Because if any of them were captured, we’d be appalled if they were treated the way David Hicks has been treated.

And I don’t mean by US prison guards. I mean by the Australian Government.

He’s one of ours. Okay, so you might not want him marrying your daughter, but he’s still an Australian.

I used to feel confident that if I fell foul of a foreign power in a foreign land that my government — my Australian Government — would look after me.

Not any more I don’t.

David Hicks is 31. He was 26 when he was captured in Afghanistan, fighting for the Taliban, something he doesn’t appear to have denied.

I have no idea why he did that. All I know is that when I was 26 I did some pretty dumb things. I like to think of myself as a responsible member of the community now… someone who has made a contribution to society in small and inconsequential ways.

But if I’d been nicked at the age of 15 laying sticks across railway lines; or at 20, chucking bricks down the funnels of steam engines, or if I’d been caught, aged 25, setting fire to petrol pumps (oh, how we laughed) I could easily have ended up in jail, where I’m sure I would have learned even more stupid ways of behaving, and my life would have been very different.

I don’t know what motivated David Hicks to adopt the life he did, but I know that I was motivated by nothing more than a crummy bunch of friends, grog, and a small brain.

I suspect David Hicks was motivated by better — even if misguided — things, probably like thinking he might be making the world a better place. So am I a better person than he, or a luckier one?

I have no idea, and once again, that’s not the point.

The point is that his government just dumped him. The British also had alleged terrorists rotting in Guantanamo Bay, but they told the Americans they wanted them back, and they got them.

Not the Australian Government. They dumped David Hicks in what now appears to be a boneless capitulation to American demands. The stories of his treatment, if true, are disgusting. You decide whom you believe – visit and read the details.

The point is that David Hicks has been held for five years without a trial, even after the trial that was planned for him was ruled unconstitutional, and his government — our government — has done nothing to change this barbaric situation.

Indeed, they’ve embraced and encouraged it!

It’s a situation that you might expect to find in the Europe of 1000 years ago, or in the dungeons of some Saracen (or Christian) empire during the Crusades… and clearly in the America of today.

It’s not something I thought I’d ever see sanitised by an Australian Government.

I’m only a new Australian (well, about 15 years new) and when I think of Townsville I’m proud to be one. When I think of the Sydney Olympics, our unique landscape, our wonderful people, our Aboriginal heritage and, yes, our Defence Force, I’m proud to be one.

When I think of David Hicks, his ruined life and wrecked brain (because he is ruined and his brain is wrecked, no matter what happens now) I’m ashamed; not of Australia nor of Australians, but of our Australian Government.